Charter Oak International Academy / Perkins Eastman

Charter Oak International Academy

West Hartford, Connecticut
The new two-story, International Magnet School serves 560 pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students by offering the International Baccalaureate® Primary Years Program (PYP) curriculum. The circular design reinforces the tenets of the inquiry-based program that nurtures independent learning skills through a focus on local and global issues. The students’ activity and progression through the day are organized in four quadrants that radiate outward from a central courtyard that offers opportunities for outdoor learning, performances, and science experimentation. Additionally, the radial design geometry organizes the large common spaces to support after-hours community activities.

A pavilion in a park-like setting among venerable oak trees, the school is named after the symbol of American in-dependence—the famous Charter Oak, which is commemorated on the Connecticut State Quarter. The interior and exterior finishes incorporate thematic tree and leaf motifs. An exterior shading screen located outside of the media center uses branch-like shadow forms the perforated metal. Other connections to the exterior include multi-story entry lobbies that draw visitors and natural light deep into the building.

The materials and textures used in the design also recalls the former 1929 building with its use of brick and window proportions that are juxtaposed with the large glass facades that admit ample natural light.

Registered with the U.S. Green Building Council to achieve LEED Gold Certification, the project also complies with the State of Connecticut High Performance Building Standards. The project includes a field of geothermal wells and a 100kW photovoltaic array on the roof. Designed without boilers, heat pumps are the sources for cooling and heating. The exterior envelop includes high thermal resistance wall and roof construction, as well as low-emissivity glass and thermally broken aluminum framed windows to prevent conductive thermal energy loss.